Despite the doctor’s argument it wouldn’t work, Carina sent Gino for the closest fast food, since he was so desperate for a different job.
Next, she produced a secret stash of weed. All sorts. Carina had them stored in a handheld, wooden chest that she opened to reveal folding trays that held a collection of small, ornate containers. She stood by the bathroom sink, while Nova sat on the floor with Dr. Acciai, who had taped up the old I.V. wound, and started a new line in Nova’s other arm to give him more fluids.
Nova was bare-chested and barefoot, wearing only a pair of black sweatpants. He always seemed like a completely different man without a suit. Unlike other gangsters who used their designer threads to induce fear, what was underneath Nova’s power suits looked so much harder and scarier than the Armani.
The Omertà tattoo stained his side in broad stoke, old English black lettering, and Nova’s thick, muscled back revealed the warning, Solo Dio può giudicarmi, across the broad expanse of his shoulders.
Only God can judge me.
Brianna knew what it meant because she asked Carina.
“This is my top shelf shit, boss,” Carina held up her prized box of weed to take his order. “Sativa or hybrid?”
“Sativa,” Nova said without hesitating, and then got specific about his marijuana strain choices. “Something up and focused.”
“I have Jack Herer.”
“That works.” Nova was still sweating, looking green, with his forehead resting on his knees. “I don’t understand, why would they raid us?” he was questioning Brianna while she leaned against the doorway. “The feds don’t show their hand for nothing. They’d need a really good reason.”
“Maybe because the Brambino compound was burned to the ground. . . with Brambinos in it.” Brianna shrugged. “Seems like a good reason.”
“Right, the fire.” Nova lifted his head and squinted at her, obviously still fighting to think clearly. “And Tino didn’t burn it down?”
“Okay.” Nova dropped his head back to his knees. “But how would they get the warrant? For what? They didn’t grab Tino, so he wasn’t it. Something’s missing. Why does it feel wrong?”
Brianna got the impression he was talking to himself, but still she asked, “Am I supposed to know the answers to these questions?”
Nova was quiet rather than respond while Carina used a small, metal grinder to break up the weed. She rolled it with light brown paper she claimed was pure organic hemp. Nova didn’t seem too impressed with her attention to fine details.
Carina lit her top shelf, organic blunt and took two long pulls herself, before she handed it to him. “This’ll work.” She looked at Nova hopefully. “Right?”
“Yeah, gimme a minute, princess.”
Nova closed his eyes while he smoked, breathing deeply and taking another large breath before he blew out the smoke slowly. He coughed, which seemed to surprise him. He opened his eyes and stared at Carina with a heavy lidded, blood-shot gaze that was clearly surprised.
Nova hummed in agreement.
Carina put an ashtray in front of him, and he was tapping the blunt against the glass bottom when he whispered, “Where’s Carlo?”
Carina glanced to Brianna with wide eyes, both of them clearly understanding his confusion now. There wasn’t a something missing from the details—there was a someone.
It wasn’t the first time he asked, but now they didn’t have a morphine pump to push. They had to admit Carlo was gone.
Carmen looked at them too, and then rubbed at the back of her neck from her spot sitting on the edge of the tub.
Dr. Acciai was doing a very good job of trying to be invisible while holding the bag of fluids above Nova’s head.
Nova swallowed hard again and tilted his head to stare at Carina in silent question.
“He got out,” Carina whispered.
Nova looked back at the ashtray, still rolling the blunt against the bottom of the glass while keeping it lit, like he needed something to do with his hands. “How long?”
“We lost him when Tino called and told us you were shot.” Carina shrugged. “So, whenever that was.”
Nova lifted his head and blinked a few more times. “What day is it?”
“It’s the eighth of July,” Dr. Acciai answered. “About nine o’clock in the evening.”
“That’s two days.” Nova still sounded like he was talking to himself, but now there’s a dangerous edge to his voice “When did the Brambino compound burn?”
“I’m not sure.” Brianna flinched when she said it. “I guess sometime this morning.
Nova was quiet once more, and something about the silence was terrifying. His gaze looked less foggy, like reality was seeping in past the whiskey and morphine cocktail.
A knock echoed in the basement, and they all jumped.
“Hey, Zu!” Gino called out. “I got your burger!”
Everyone in the basement breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Carina ran upstairs to grab his burger and fries.
“I need a television. . . and my phone. Not that one,” Nova grunted when Brianna held out his burner. “My real one. It was in the pocket of the white pants I was wearing when I got here.”
“We burned those, bello,” Carmen said softly. “Everything’s gone.”
“I didn’t see a phone,” Dr. Acciai agreed.
“Then it’s in my car.” Nova tapped his blunt against the ashtray, before he sighed with frustration. “My car’s gone too, isn’t it?”
Brianna nodded. “Tino must’ve left with it.”
Carina had unwrapped his burger on the way down the stairs. She held it out to him as she walked back into the bathroom.
Nova looked genuinely disgusted at the idea of eating it.
“This is not your first rodeo.” Carina put it in his face. “You know I’m right.”
Nova must’ve agreed, because he took the burger and handed her the blunt.
Carina took a long drag of the blunt while Nova worked on the burger.
Both of them looked positively ill.
“You can’t hate me over this,” Carina started in a sudden rush like she had been mentally practicing for a long time. “Because if you hadn’t gotten shot, then Tino wouldn’t have called Brianna and used aiuto on her and--”
“I need a television,” Nova repeated again, his voice icy.
“This is your fault!” Carina said passionately. “’Cause your dumb puttaniere ass went and got shot!” Then her dark gaze narrowed like she knew things. “So, I really hope it’s worth it, Casanova, maybe it’ll be extra tight for you this time.”
Nova got up by himself, forcing Dr. Acciai to follow him with the bag of I.V. fluids held high. Carina, Brianna and Carmen let them go and stayed in the bathroom.
“I’m sorry, but you don’t know him like I do.” Carina didn’t look at Carmen as she said it. “He’d hurt me worse if I let him.”
“I get it.” Carmen sounded serious as she stood and leaned into Carina. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, before she whispered, “It is extra tight, by the way.”
She winked at Brianna as she stepped past her.
Brianna turned and watched Carmen follow Nova. Even after she disappeared into the bedroom with the television, Brianna avoided looking at Carina.
She bit her lip to hide her smile.
Carina saw it anyway and hit Brianna’s shoulder.
Brianna held up her hands in defeat. “You were being so cunty to her, and she gave zero fucks. That’s impressive…and a little funny.”
“You’re calling me a cunt?” Carina sounded genuinely insulted. “You’re saying that merda to my face?”
Brianna gave a her a pointed look. “Did you not know that?”
Carina opened her mouth, like she wanted to argue. Instead she huffed in defeat and took a long puff of the forgotten blunt in her hand. Then she sat down on the carpet in front of the sink and grabbed the ashtray Nova abandoned.
Brianna left her to it.
In the bedroom, Nova sat on the edge of the bed, the shadows of the news reflecting off his face in the dark room. The doctor stood over him, still holding up the I.V. bag and Carmen was leaning against the dresser, her arms folded, her features masked while they reported on the death of her father.
Then Nova leaned his elbows against his knees and dropped his head into his hands. He pushed his fingers into his hair, forcing it off his sweaty head and kept them there as he turned his head to look at Carmen.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the near darkness, with the glow from the television casting a haunting glow over her face. “I told you to leave. I warned you.”
“I know, bella. This isn’t your fault. This is our fault.” Nova looked back to the news. He watched it quietly for a few minutes before he glanced to Brianna in acknowledgement. “Tino’s probably right, we could get raided.” Nova blanched like he was going to be sick again and ended up resting his forehead on his knees again, looking like it was taking all his strength not to completely fall apart. “Just to be safe, we need to get rid of everything. All drugs. All weapons. All paperwork needs to be in small drawers.”
“I think Monte’s already doing that upstairs,” Brianna assured him. “I told him the Feds were following Tino.”
“It’s not the Feds. It can’t be, not for this. The murders weren’t over state lines. Lola and the Brambino compound burning down both happened in Brooklyn. It’ll be NYPD, but that makes no sense. We have family there who would’ve told me if Tino was suspect enough to have a warrant issued for him.” Nova still sounded like he was fighting for clarity as he repeated again, “Something’s missing.”
“You sure there weren’t murders over state lines?” Carmen asked cryptically. “Maybe the feds know something you don’t.”
Nova was quiet for another long moment before he sighed. “How’d Tino call you?”
“He said he was using a friend’s burner.”
“Did he say what friend?”
Brianna shook her head. “No.”
“Cazzo, then we can’t risk calling him.” Nova looked back to the television and swallowed hard. Then he dropped his head back to his knees. “I guess we have to plan on a raid. Carmen, you need to make a call to the medical examiner. You came here to make final arrangements, we need you to be doing that to protect yourself from our merda. Your father’s dead. No one’s going to fight you for Lola.”
Carmen flinched, and looked away, like she’d rather be dealing with a raid.
“I’m sorry too,” Nova whispered. “Truly.”
Dr. Acciai cleared his throat.
“You have to leave.” Nova agreed before the doctor had to ask. “We need to pack as much of this medical shit in his car as possible and he needs to go. The basement is the first place they’ll look. Do it. Right now. Get him out of here.”
Dr. Acciai didn’t need to be told twice.
He quickly removed the second I.V. from Nova’s arm, and Carina helped him pack his car in the garage with everything downstairs that made the basement look like a hospital. Brianna honestly couldn’t believe they fit as much as they did, including the bed Nova had been sleeping on not too long ago.
Carmen made the call to the medical examiner and gave them the number to the funeral home. Nova had already called the funeral home and told them to handle it before going back into the bathroom and closing the door this time.
Carmen immediately started sorting through Nova’s things, looking much more comfortable with this task than the phone call.
“No.” Carmen dropped a royal blue men’s dress shirt into a large pile of discarded clothes on the bed. “Definitely no.” A blue and white stripped one was tossed aside without a second look. The next was deep purple, and she held it up for a second, before it too was abandoned. “No.” She kept setting aside designer shirts, one after another, before she finally lifted her head and looked at Brianna in exasperation. “None of these work. He needs a black one.”
Brianna just stared back at her, with all of Nova’s designer clothes strewn over the bed as the television still played in the background. There were twelve shirts to choose from in varying colors. Brianna knew, because she had silently counted them.
It was a big risk to run back upstairs at this point.
Only twenty minutes had passed since Tino’s phone call—but it felt like a lifetime. Every noise made them jump in terror and the idea of pausing all that because of a shirt.
Carmen had moved on to a small black bag of extras that glittered under the dim lights in the basement bedroom when Carmen unzipped it. Carina had just dumped thousands of dollars’ worth of watches, tie bars, and cufflinks into the bag without a thought. Now Carmen was tossing cufflinks on the bed like they weren’t each worth an insane amount of money.
“No. No. No. Maybe.” Carmen looked at the playing card cufflinks in her hand and set them on top of the charcoal grey suit she had picked out. She started discarding the tie bars onto the bed next, but stopped to glance up at Brianna and repeated, “Black shirt.” When Brianna didn’t respond, Carmen huffed like it was obvious. “In case he bleeds through it.”
“I guess.” Brianna supposed that made sense.
More importantly, she wanted to get out of the basement anyway.
If she were being honest with herself, she wanted to get out of the house completely.
Raids scared the ever-loving-fuck out of her.
Why not just leave?
Dr. Acciai cleared his throat and got to leave.
What was it about her that always wanted to stick around for the drama?
Brianna kept asking herself the same questions all the way up to Nova’s room—where there were no black shirts of his. Not a single one in his entire, walk-in closet at the don’s, which was considerable.
How was that even possible?
It was ridiculous how much clothing Nova owned. She couldn’t even imagine what the closet in his Harlem apartment looked like if this was just his weekend stuff.
Tino had some of his clothes in there too, and she found a black dress shirt. She was holding it out, trying to gauge if Nova would be able to button it, considering how much broader his shoulders were than Tino’s, but maybe…
“I hope that’s not for Nova,” Carina walked into the closet and arched an eyebrow at the shirt in Brianna’s hand. “He’ll be busting out of that thing like the hulk.”
“Carmen says he needs a black one,” Brianna shrugged. “In case he bleeds through it.”
“Maybe Carlo has some in his closet. It’ll fit a lot better.”
“Is Dr. Acciai gone?” Brianna asked her with no little bit of jealousy.
“Yeah, hopefully no one stops him with all that shit in his car. I gave him my weed too.”
“Carina!” Brianna snapped at her as the two of them walked out of Nova’s closet. “Why didn’t you just flush it?”
“It was my good weed,” Carina said it like that should explain everything. She seemed a lot calmer about the raid now that it was gone.
Now they all knew why Carina was such an enthusiastic helper of Dr. Acciai. She had that basement packed up in record time.
They were halfway down the hallway to Carlo’s room, when a loud, echoing knock reverberated through the house. It was violent enough to shake the floors beneath their feet, and this wasn’t a flimsy house. It was old, solid, made of concreate and brick, and likely designed for its ability to hide secrets and maintain silence. No human fist could knock like that.
Without thought, Brianna and Carina took off running together.
From somewhere downstairs, Gino’s loud voice echoed off the marble. “It’s the heat!”
The floor shook again.
The sound was deafening.
Brianna pulled the door to Carlo’s bedroom open, and the two of them scrambled in. She slammed it shut behind Carina.
“What do we do? Should we go down?” Brianna flipped the lock to the door just in case. “If they catch us hiding, they’ll think we’re guilty!”
The floor shook once more, and the crystal tumbler on Carlo’s nightstand fell to the floor. Carina looked at the shattered glass as the booming voices drifted from upstairs.
“Get down! Get down! Get the fuck down! I’ll swear to God, I’ll make you fucking eat it!”
Brianna and Carina both ducked at the sound of a gunshot, and Carina suddenly grabbed Brianna’s hand.
“Something’s wrong,” Carina said in a rush of fear, echoing her brother’s words from earlier. “Hurry. We’re hiding.”
Carina pulled on Brianna so hard she stumbled. Carina yanked open Carlo’s closet, and forced Brianna inside.
“Are you crazy?” Brianna barked at her when Carina shut the closet, and turned off the light, trapping them in the darkness. “We’ll end up in lockup!”
“No, we won’t.” Carina’s voice shook with terror. “That’s not the heat.”